In the lead up to the Rugby World Cup which is less than a two months away, Heyneke Meyer named his Springbok squad to play World XV, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina as he fine tunes the team for his final selection of the team to represent South Africa in England RWC 2015. Perhaps some of the highlights of his 49 man squad would have been the selection of eight uncapped players and the return of a further six as the coach sort to balance team.
The players in the squad who are coming in without any caps include Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff, Vincent Koch of the Stommers, Rudy Paige, Jesse Kriel of the Bulls, and Franco Mostert, Faf de Klerk, and Lionel Mapoe of the Lions. After a whole year of absence in the Springbok set up – Elton Jantjies, Frans Steyn, Jaque Fourie, Heinrich Brüssow, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Heinke van der Merwe also made it back.
Some stats you may want to know about the selected team
The player with the most caps is Victor Matfield (121) with Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers a tied second at 106 caps a piece.
11 vs 9 – Meyer clearly had no reservations about opting for experience over form. This shows when he selected more player from the Sharks over the 9 of players of the Stomers. The Stomers produced the highest finish in Super rugby by a South African team in what was the worst South African performance in Super Rugby since 2003. But for Meyer 29% of the squad came from the Sharks while 13% came from the Stomers. Furthermore the definite change in policy on foreign based players is also reflected with 39% of the squad being based in foreign clubs.
This is evident from the test cap break down. The club sources with the highest contributions came with more caps than the rest. Naturally the Stomers were found wanting in that department. The Sharks bring with them 424 caps, with veterans like Beast Mtawarira, JP Pietersen and Bismark du Plesis some of these call ups were a natural selection. However, planning for the future is part of Meyer’s rational as you can see in his selection of 10% coming from Lions players, who have a total of 4 caps between all five players.
The team is spread quite nicely across position, but part of the coaches rational being not only to get the players to gel over the preparation matches. But also to test his options in terms of combinations when injuries do occur during the tournament.
This is evident from his leaning towards the selection of utility players i.e players who can play multiple positions equally well. We can certainly expect a strict implementation of a rotation policy in the pre-match tour. What one can read from that in terms of the final world cup squad selection, that’s anybody’s guess.
With names like Jean de Villiers, Jaque Fourie, Fourie du Preez and Patrick Lambie on the injury list one can be forgiven form having sleepless nights over the player’s recovery and playing readiness in time for the tournament. Because lets be honest, these players are pushing the experience bank up with their test caps. However it is probably Duane Vermeulen’s injury that is top of mind as it was last minute and unexpected.
The prognosis on his neck injury from the weekend’s encounter is said to be requiring an operation, with a 7 to 8 week recovery, this means “the timelines are tight,” in the words of the team Doctor. This off course presents a challenge at No. 8. Not really because he is the only first choice No. 8 selected in the squad. Meyer’s preference for players who play multiple positions equally well is a clear prudent measure to mitigate unfortunate injuries which have a tendency to pop up at the most inconvenient times.
Schalk Burger’s availability does provide some comfort on that score. However, when the chips are down, the brains-trust can pull you through. Therefore people like Victor Matfield, Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers might be there but it is the gusto and energy of your star players that exemplifies intensity of the focus. The idea that the Boks might have to go into the RWC2015 with the 2014 Player of the Year coming out of injury and having not had the opportunity to play a single competitive match at the highest level is a concern. In fact his World Cup warm up match might just be in the group staegs.
That being said, with players uncapped and some returning the next few matches against World XV, Australia, New Zealand and Argentina presents the chance for more people to fight for a place in the final squad.
As to who makes it into the side remains to be seen.
Springbok squad (in alphabetical order):
Willem Alberts (Sharks), Loose forward, 32 Test caps
Schalk Brits (Saracens, England), Hooker, 7
Schalk Burger (Stormers / Suntory, Japan), Loose forward, 75
Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Loose forward, 26
Damian De Allende (Stormers), Centre, 3
Faf de Klerk (Lions/Pumas), Scrumhalf, 0
Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), Hooker, 70
Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Prop, 62
Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), Lock, 33
Elton Jantjies (Lions), Flyhalf, 2
Bryan Habana (Toulon, France), Wing, 106
Cornal Hendricks (Cheetahs), Wing, 11
Zane Kirchner (Leinster, Ireland), Wing / Fullback, 29
Steven Kitshoff (Stormers), Prop, 0
Vincent Koch (Stormers/Steval Pumas), Prop, 0
Siya Kolisi (Stormers), Loose forward, 10
Jesse Kriel (Bulls), Fullback, 0
Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), Fullback / Wing, 25
Francois Louw (Bath, England), Loose forward, 34
Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Prop, 4
Victor Matfield (Bulls), Lock, 121
Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje (Cheetahs), Loose forward, 7
Franco Mostert (Lions), Lock, 0
Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Prop, 64
Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Wing, 10
Scarra Ntubeni (Stormers), Hooker, 0
Trevor Nyakane (Bulls), Prop, 13
Rudy Paige (Bulls), Scrumhalf, 0
Ruan Pienaar (Ulster, N Ireland), Scrumhalf, 80
JP Pietersen (Sharks), Centre / Wing, 59
Handré Pollard (Bulls), Flyhalf, 9
Morné Steyn (Stade Francais, France), Flyhalf, 59
Adriaan Strauss (Bulls), Hooker, 44
Heinke van der Merwe (Stade Francais, France), Prop, 4
Marcel van der Merwe (Bulls), Prop, 4
Warren Whiteley (Lions), Loose forward, 2
Injured / Conditioning squad:
Heinrich Brussow (Cheetahs/Docomo, Japan), Loose forward, 20
Lood de Jager (Cheetahs), Lock, 9
Jean de Villiers (Stormers), Centre, 106
Fourie du Preez (Suntory, Japan), Scrumhalf, 70
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks), Lock, 2
Jaque Fourie (Kobe, Japan), Centre, 72
Patrick Lambie (Sharks), Flyhalf / Fullback, 40
Lionel Mapoe (Lions), Centre, 0
Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs), Prop, 21
Cobus Reinach (Sharks), Scrumhalf, 6
Jan Serfontein (Bulls), Centre, 20
Frans Steyn (Sharks), Centre, 53
Duane Vermeulen (Stormers), No 8, 29